Friday, September 29, 2023

Q&A with Cindy Fazzi




Cindy Fazzi is the author of the new novel Multo. Her other books include the novel My MacArthur. A former Associated Press reporter, she lives in Sacramento, California.  


Q: What inspired you to write Multo, and how did you create your characters Domingo and Monica?  


A: I wrote the first draft of what became Multo back in 1995. It was my first attempt to write fiction. I was a green-card holder at the time. I felt very lucky that I was about to get my U.S. citizenship as opposed to the millions of other immigrants who were undocumented.  


I started with the character of Monica Reed, a biracial Filipina who travels to the U.S. and stays on illegally to look for her American father. I meant to focus on Monica—until I read a New York Times article about a bounty hunter who specialized in deporting undocumented immigrants. That story was the inspiration for the character of Domingo the bounty hunter.  


I was writing Multo as a literary novel from the point of view of Monica. Domingo was a secondary character. But the manuscript wasn’t working. No literary agent wanted to represent the book. Everyone said immigration was a tough sell, especially with a Filipino protagonist.  


Many years later, I experimented by writing a short story titled "Domingo the Bounty Hunter," a first-person story about the first time he caught Monica. I wanted to see if changing the story’s POV would make a difference. The Snake Nation Review accepted and published it in 2004. My experiment was successful; I found the right POV for the story.  


I rewrote the manuscript in 2008 and again in 2017. Using Domingo’s POV completely changed the book’s structure and pacing. It became a thriller organically. Multo was acquired by Agora Books last year – 27 years after it was conceived!

Q: How would you describe the dynamic between the two characters?


 A: Domingo and Monica are compatriots who speak the same language and share the same belief in the American Dream. But he’s a naturalized U.S. citizen, while she’s undocumented. The difference in their legal status, plus the nature of his job, makes them de facto enemies. The book pits a dogged bounty hunter against a desperate woman in hiding.


Q: Your website says of the book, “Full of action and humor, Multo is also a meditation on what it means to be unwelcome and unwanted in a country you love and the sacrifices such love requires.” Can you say more about that?  


A: Both Domingo and Monica came to the United States because they wanted to. They want a life in America. In their own ways, they are both trying to belong. Obviously, Monica’s struggle is harder.  


The book shows that for many immigrants of color, regardless of status, feeling wanted and accepted in their adopted country is a fundamental desire. It drives their goals and ambitions, but it also causes them a lot of pain, especially when they are told time and again, in so many ways, that they don’t belong here.


Q: Did you need to do any research to write the novel, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?  


A: My primary resource for the novel was Bail Enforcer: The Advanced Bounty Hunter by Bob Burton, a well-known bounty hunter and an advocate for the profession. The Department of Justice uses it as a training manual on finding and arresting fugitives.  


I learned a couple of things that are noteworthy. First, there are only two countries in the world that allow bounty hunting: the United States and its former colony, the Philippines. Second, bail is a constitutional right provided by the Eighth Amendment. That’s where the authority of bail bonds agencies and the bounty hunters they hire come from.  


Q: This is the first in a series--can you talk about what's next?  


A: In the sequel, Domingo investigates a mysterious Mexican migrant who saved the life of a white American heiress and the object of her romantic obsession. Uncovering the Good Samaritan’s real identity could get both of them killed. Book two is called Mulat, meaning “aware” or “with eyes open” in Tagalog. It’s the one thing the heiress needs but lacks because she’s in the grip of obsession.  


Q: Anything else we should know?


 A: When I first wrote Multo in 1995, there were about 3.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Today that number has grown to 10.5 million. Sadly, immigration reform is as elusive as it was in 1995. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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